The night that changed Tara Accetta’s life forever began with a few beers in a Rockaways bar and plans for a midnight swim in a friend’s backyard pool.
this summer was supposed to be about fun — a last hurrah before facing the rigors of her new school, new York University — and the gorgeous Brooklyn teen and her three pals just wanted to stay cool on a hot July night.
Accetta, 19, had been in the Neponsit pool the day before, on the sun-splashed Fourth of July. Now, in the dark, she stood by the 4-foot shallow end of the inground pool, planning to glide across the water’s surface toward the 9-foot deep end.
She’d made this type of dive countless times before.
this time, something went horribly wrong.
“I felt the back right side of my head hit the bottom of the pool,” the old mill Basin teen told The News.
“My body went into instant shock; I don’t remember being in pain. I floated, like a dead-man’s float.
“A friend pulled me out of the pool. I told him, ‘I can’t move my body. You need to call an ambulance. And call my mother.’”
Courtesy Accetta Family Tara Accetta’s brother Ray, dad Raymond, mom Cathy and sister Colleen (far right) support Tara (second from right).
Another friend woke Accetta’s mom with the awful news: her beautiful daughter’s neck was broken.
Accetta’s torso and legs are paralyzed, and she’s unlikely to ever walk again.
Instead of going to college, she’s in a rehabilitation hospital, struggling to train her upper body to do basic tasks such as sitting up straight, and regaining control over her hand motions.
she sees her July 5 accident as a cautionary tale about careless teen behavior.
“People my age think we’re invincible,” she said from her hospital bed at NYU’s Rusk Institute.
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“We think nothing bad will ever happen to us. our parents try to protect us, but we don’t learn until we break our necks in a pool.
“There are simple things we don’t focus on, like we drive with the music too loud or hang out in parks late at night.”
her drinking didn’t cause her botched dive, she insisted.
she had a couple beers at the bar, then drank water during her final hour and a half there, she said. she thought she was in fit shape to swim.
her heartsick parents are trying to make sense of how this could happen to the girl who’d been swimming since she was a tot.
Courtesy Accetta Family Tara Accetta in family photos before the July, 2012 accident.
“This girl lived for summer,” said her mom, Cathy Accetta, 45. “She loved the beach. she adored the water.”